Gambian president Adama Barrow to be sworn-in for second-term

ECOWAS chair President Nana Addo Dankwa-Akufo-Addo is among dignitaries expected to grace the occasion in Banjul

Gambian President, Adama Barrow, is expected to be sworn into office for his second term on 19 January 2022, at the Independence Stadium in Banjul, the capital city of Gambia.

President Akufo-Addo, the current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and several other African Heads of State are expected to grace the occasion with their presence.

Barrow’s victory

Adama Barrow secured over 53% of the total vote in the presidential elections held on the 4 of December 2021. His closest contender, Ousainou Darboe, managed to poll 28% of the total votes.

The 2021 election, which was seen by the global community as a test for democracy in Gambia, was the first without Yahya Jammeh, Gambian’s former President who ruled with an iron fist from 1994 to 2017 when he was defeated by Barrow in the 2016 presidential elections, on the ballot.

Exiled Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh, after his 2016 election defeat, was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017, after refusing to accept the results.

Despite his exile in Equatorial Guinea, Mr Jammeh remains an influential figure, addressing supporters remotely during campaigning and urging them not to vote for Mr Barrow, even though a faction of his party had agreed a controversial deal to work with the current President.

Gambian democracy

2017 marked a new beginning for The Gambia. The new government of Adama Barrow, the third president in Gambian history, has moved to address the dire legacy of the Jammeh era.

Barrow inherited a virtually bankrupt country with a poorly functioning state apparatus and extensive corruption. The Gambia’s international reputation had been marred by Jammeh’s erratic leadership style.

Under his rule, the country had experienced extensive human rights abuses such as torture and extra-judicial killings, and security services had operated with impunity.

The challenges facing the Gambia in 2017 were thus manifold and significant. There has been some positive economic news, particularly in terms of robust GDP growth, a rebound in the vital tourism industry, and significant pledges from bilateral partners.

However, other factors weigh heavily on The Gambia’s economic outlook. Its debt burden is unsustainable and there are significant structural obstacles, including a weak administrative apparatus in key areas, high unemployment, and lack of requisite human resources.

The political and legal developments under Barrow are arguably more promising. His government has not only ended or reverted some of the more egregious practices of the Jammeh era (the release of political prisoners etc) but has overseen the adoption of a sweeping transitional justice program.

This opening up of the political climate in The Gambia is confirmed by limited public opinion polling, which suggests that Gambians feel considerably freer than under the Jammeh government.

While the United Democratic Party associated with Barrow (he resigned from the party before the 2016 election in order to represent the coalition), is dominant in the country’s legislature, there is a greater diversity of political parties at both the national and local levels.

The consolidation of these democratic gains is undermined however by the continued existence of some of the more onerous laws from the Jammeh era. There have been several protests over environmental issues and service delivery to which the Barrow government has responded heavy-handedly.

In one case, police officers killed three protesters and injured up to twenty others. The Barrow government has also not been immune to allegations of corruption and malfeasance, and a growing rift between Barrow and the United Democratic Party (UDP), amidst threats that undermine the governing coalition.

While The Gambia has a history of ethno-religious harmony, there is lingering resentment between different groups, particularly directed against the Jola ethnic group to which the former President belonged.

Notable initiatives

When Barrow assumed office in June 2017 The National Water and Electricity Company of Gambia (NAWEC) was a bankrupt institution owing billions of Dalasis locally and internationally. Two years later, the company was sanitized and put on a road map of profitability.

During the past 5 years, about 10 major multi-million-dollar projects totalling $400 million dollars (D20 billion Dalasis) have been invested into electricity and water provision, making it the biggest investment ever in that sector.

Between 2017 and 2021 total electricity installed capacity increased to about 35% while available megawatts (MW) increased to nearly 50%.

The World Bank has identified The Gambia as one of only 4 African countries poised to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025.

From January 2017 to date, Gambians are said to have enjoyed unprecedented freedoms and liberties likened to what is enjoyed by people in the western world.

President Barrow not only allowed a free press, he promoted it by issuing over 18 licences for private radio, and 5 licences for private television. He also signed the Information Bill into law (allowing everyone access to information), and removed the oppressive taxes imposed on the media.

The Gambia

The Gambia is a relatively small country in West Africa and stretching some 450 km along the Gambia River. The country is surrounded by Senegal, except for a 60-km Atlantic Ocean front.

The country has a population of 2.1 million with 176 people per square kilometre which makes it one of the most densely populated countries in Africa.

Most of the population (57%) is concentrated around urban and peri-urban centers.

Wilberforce Asare

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